UPDATE: A rescue helicopter sent by Russian forces to search for two pilots who parachuted out of a Russian Su-24 fighter bomber has been shot down by Syrian rebels backed by the United States. The helicopter made a forced landing in an area held by forces of Syria's Assad government. A group of Syrians opposed to Assad used U.S.-made TOW missiles - which are normally used in anti-tank applications.
Video shows that the helicopter crashed in dense woodland.
Earlier on November 24, Turkey scrambled jets that shot down the Russian Su-24 after it repeatedly ignored warnings that it had crossed over into Turkish air space. Russian President Vladmir Putin has warned Turkey of "significant consequences."
Reports have also emerged that Syrian rebels shot and killed the two Russian pilots who were descending in parachutes after having survived the destruction of their jet by Turkish F-16s.
According to Russia’s Defense Ministry, a Russian Su-24 fighter jet was shot down over Syria. Russia denies Turkey’s contention that the aircraft had violated Turkish airspace, stating that the jet was flying at 20,000 feet and was over Syria. “During the flight, the aircraft was flying within the borders of Syria, which was registered by objective monitoring data,” the ministry said. The statement added that the fighter was "supposedly shot down from the ground.”
Video taken at the scene shows smoke emerging from behind a mountain range, while two parachutes appear after the jet was engaged. The Russian Defense Ministry said that the two pilots ejected, but their fates are unknown. However, footage uploaded to the internet by Syrian rebels purports to show the body of one of the downed airmen. The Russian airmen are shown surrounded by curious locals.
According to the spokesman of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Peskov, the loss of the jet is "a very serious incident.” However, Peskov said that it is too early to draw conclusions until the whole situation is clear.
NATO has repeatedly denounced Russian intrusions into NATO airspace
A Habertürk TV reporter of Turkey working on the scene said the aircraft “turned into a fireball.” Witnesses claim to have seen thick plumes of smoke rising from the crash site.
Turkey’s military claims that the Russian jet had been warned off at least 10 times over a period of five minutes before it was shot down by two U.S.-built Turkish F-16 jet fighters. The jet is believed to have crashed in a village populated mostly by Syrian Turkmen. The place has been a hotspot between the Islamist opposition and the Syrian Army.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has met with officials from the Foreign Ministry. Davutoglu told them to consult with NATO and UN counterparts on the latest developments on the Syrian border, Davutoglu’s office said in a statement.